Prospective Students - Graduates

Tips on Writing the Statement of Purpose

Your statement of purpose is the single most important piece of the application.

  1. Things to Keep in Mind
    • Remember that you are writing for an audience who cares about one thing and one thing only: they want to recruit graduate students with a great deal of intellectual promise.

    • Remember that your statement has to stand out among countless others.

    • Don't tell it, show it. That is, don't say how dedicated or committed you are; show it by describing your accomplishments. Use positive language and avoid the passive voice.

Planning Ahead

Ideally you'll want to plan as far ahead as possible. Freshman year in college is not too early.

  • Nurture strong ties with faculty who will know you well enough to write you strong letters of recommendation.

  • Keep all your class papers and research projects in case you need to reproduce them for the professors writing for you.

  • Seek out research opportunities, one-to-one tutorials with professors, summer programs, and job opportunities that fuel your intellectual interest.

  • Maintain a strong GPA.

Identifying Your Schools of Choice

Identify ten schools to which you might apply. Visit the career center in your school and speak with counselors who may help you with university guide books and other resources. Speak with professors in the area of your interest for their recommendations. Look at the overall ranking of the institution as well as the specific ranking of the department. For each institution, identify faculty members with whom you might find an intellectual match.

Finding the Right Social Sciences Graduate Program

Where do your interests lie? Which program is right for you? What is your academic future?

Social Sciences at UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley is home to 12 top-ranking, internationally renowned social science departments, offering a broad range of opportunities.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are another important component of your application materials. They provide a professional opinion of your intellectual abilities and preparation for graduate school, and are usually written by a professor who not only addresses your specific strengths, but compares you to the many students with whom the professor has worked during his or her career. In other words, the admission committee wants to know how you "stack up" against all the students the recommender has ever had! In general, most programs/universities require three letters of support.

Application Etiquette

As you move through your undergraduate years and into graduate school, you will have increasing contact with graduate students and faculty in your discipline. Knowing how to interact with them can be helpful as you begin to negotiate a larger sphere with future colleagues and mentors. Building strong relationships begins with your initial interactions with busy faculty members and graduate students. As you begin to apply to graduate school, please keep the following suggestions in mind:

Writing Sample

In the humanities, the writing sample is just as crucial, if not more crucial, than the statement of purpose. Therefore, an applicant should place considerable importance and a great amount of effort into producing a writing sample. In general, admission committees evaluate an applicant's ability to synthesize ideas, concepts, or theories, and logically take a stand and argue them. Faculty would like to admit potential graduate students whose intellectual abilities and curiosity are highly advanced and are evident in the writing sample.

Graduate Programs

For a regularly updated list of graduate programs along with their application deadlines, please visit the Berkeley Graduate Division website.